Hits and misses at the draft by Southeast teams
The Los Angeles Kings proved again this season that good drafting is the basis of success. The core of the Kings' Stanley Cup championship team -- goaltender Jonathan Quick, defenseman Drew Doughty, No. 1 center Anze Kopitar and captain Dustin Brown -- all were drafted and developed by the team.
Every team has had its ups and downs since the draft began in 1963. Here's a look at the hits (and some of the misses) for the five teams in the Southeast Division on Draft Day.
WINNIPEG JETS/ATLANTA THRASHERS
Best first-round pick: Ilya Kovalchuk (2001) -- Atlanta made the playoffs just once before the move to Winnipeg, but it would be hard to blame its struggles on Kovalchuk, who has developed into one of the most dynamic scorers in the NHL. At age 29, he's had nine consecutive 30-goal seasons (including two 52-goal efforts). The Thrashers dealt him to New Jersey in February 2010, and he's added a two-way component to his game while remaining one of the NHL's most consistent scorers. He joined the 400-goal club this past season and has more goals than any other player during the past decade. He was New Jersey's top scorer this spring as the Devils advanced to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2003.
Honorable mention: Dany Heatley (2000), Kari Lehtonen (2002), Zach Bogosian (2008)
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Ondrej Pavelec (2005) -- One reason the Thrashers spent most of their existence outside the playoffs is a lack of success in Rounds 2-4. Pavelec, a goaltender taken in the second round in 2005, has had fits and starts but is proving he's capable of being a full-time NHL goaltender. In the franchise's first season in Winnipeg, he was 29-28-9 with a 2.91 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage on a team that struggled defensively.
Honorable mention: Patrick Dwyer (2002)
Best later-round pick: Tobias Enstrom (2003) -- Enstrom, a small, offensive defenseman from Sweden, didn't come to North America until 2007, but he's been an effective player in his four NHL seasons. He made the All-Rookie team in 2007-08 and has been the franchise's most effective offensive-minded blueliner almost from the day he arrived. He had six goals and 27 assists in 62 games this season, when he was a plus player for the first time in his career.
Honorable mention: Garnet Exelby (1999), Darcy Hordichuk (2000)
Biggest disappointment: Patrik Stefan (1999) -- Stefan spent six seasons with the Thrashers and played 455 NHL games, but he never came close to putting up the kind of numbers Atlanta expected after he was the first draft pick in franchise history. Stefan never had more than 14 goals or 40 points in a season, was a plus player just once in Atlanta, and was plagued with concussion-related problems. He spent a season in Dallas and signed in Switzerland, but played only three games there before retiring in 2007.
Honorable mention: Luke Sellars (1999), Alex Bourret (2005)
Author: John Kreiser | NHL.com Columnist
CAROLINA HURRICANES/HARTFORD WHALERS
Best first-round pick: Ron Francis (1981) -- "Ronnie Franchise" got his two Stanley Cup rings with Pittsburgh in the early 1990s, but he spent 16 of his 23 NHL seasons with the Whalers/Hurricanes franchise, piling up the points -- and goodwill -- along the way. Only Wayne Gretzky has more career assists than Francis, and only Gretzky, Gordie Howe and Mark Messier finished their careers with more points. Francis still is with the Hurricanes as vice president of hockey operations.
Honorable mention: Bobby Holik (1989), Chris Pronger (1993), Cam Ward (2002), Eric Staal (2003), Jeff Skinner (2010)
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Kevin Dineen (1982) -- Dineen, a third-round pick by Hartford, made an immediate impression by scoring 25 goals as a rookie in 1984-85, then added 33, 40, 25 and 45 goals in his next four seasons while becoming one of the premier power forwards in the NHL. He never reached 30 goals after his 30th birthday, but remained in the NHL for a long time as an effective checker who could contribute offensively and was willing to do whatever was needed to win. Dineen finished with 355 goals and 760 points in 1,188 games. In his first season as an NHL coach, he led Florida to its first playoff berth since 2000.
Honorable mention: Geoff Sanderson (1990), Sami Kapanen (1995), Eric Cole (1998)
Best later-round pick: Ray Ferraro (1982) -- Those who only know Ferraro today as a television analyst missed seeing one of the better players in NHL history. A fifth-round pick by the Whalers, he was a 30-goal scorer in his second NHL season and had 41 three seasons later. The Whalers traded him to the Islanders in 1990, and he became immensely popular on the Island while continuing to serve as an effective No. 2 center. Ferraro played 1,258 games for six teams in his 18 NHL seasons, finishing his career with 408 goals and 898 points.
Honorable mention: Joe Reekie (1983), Manny Legace (1993)
Biggest disappointment: Jeff Heerema (1998) -- You don't expect to get a career minor-leaguer with the 11th pick in the draft, but that's what the Hurricanes got when they chose Heerema in 1998 after a 32-goal season for Sarnia of the OHL. Heerema spent two more seasons with Sarnia, then played seven seasons in the minor leagues, earning only a 10-game stretch with Carolina in 2002-03 and 22 games with St. Louis the following season. He's played the past five seasons in Europe, spending 2011-12 with Nottingham of the English League, where he had 13 goals and 36 points in 28 games.
Honorable mention: Christopher Govedaris (1988), Nikos Tselios (1997)
Best first-round pick: Ed Jovanovski (1994) -- The Panthers made Jovanovski the first pick in the 1994 draft; he turned pro two years later and was instrumental in Florida's stunning run to the 1996 Stanley Cup Final. The Panthers dealt him to Vancouver in 1999 as part of the Pavel Bure trade, and he later signed with Phoenix as a free agent. He stayed in the desert until re-signing with Florida last summer and helping the Panthers end a 12-year playoff drought. Throughout his career he's been a productive top-pair defenseman, though he's never put up the kind of offensive numbers some people expected.
Honorable mention: Rob Niedermayer (1993), Radek Dvorak (1995), Stephen Weiss (2001), Nathan Horton (2003), Dmitry Kulikov (2009)
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Kristian Huselius (1997) -- The Panthers haven't done particularly well in rounds 2-4. Their best selection has been Huselius, who had a couple of 20-goal seasons for the Panthers, then struggled and was traded to Calgary. His best season came with the Flames in 2006-07, when he had 34 goals and 43 assists in 81 games. He had 25 goals and 66 points for Calgary the following season, then 21 and 23 goals in two seasons with Columbus before injuries limited him to 14 goals and 23 points in 39 games in 2010-11, and to two games and no points this past season.
Honorable mention: Kevin Weekes (1993), Rhett Warrener (1994), Niklas Hagman (1999)
Best later-round pick: Filip Kuba (1995) -- Florida waited three years for Kuba, a Czech defenseman, to come to North America after drafting him in the eighth round. He spent two seasons bouncing between the Panthers and the minors before winding up with Minnesota in the expansion draft. Kuba became a solid top-four defenseman with the Wild and had a career-high 40 points with Ottawa in 2008-09. He's battled injuries since then, but when healthy, he's still an excellent puck-mover.
Honorable mention: Peter Worrell (1995), Jaroslav Spacek (1998)
Biggest disappointment: Denis Shvidki (1999) -- Florida took the Russian-born right wing after he put up 35 goals and 94 points for Barrie of the OHL in 1998-99. He improved to 41 goals and 106 points with the Colts in 1999-2000, then had 15 goals in 34 games for Louisville of the AHL in 2000-01, earning a half-season in Florida, where he scored six times. But after bouncing between the Panthers and the minors for three more seasons, scoring five goals in 33 NHL games, Shvidki went back to Russia and played there for five seasons.
Honorable mention: Mike Brown (1997), Petr Taticek (2002)
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
Best first-round pick: Steven Stamkos (2008) -- Vincent Lecavalier owns all the Lightning goal-scoring records for now, but Stamkos figures to obliterate them. The first player chosen in the 2008 draft is coming off the first 60-goal season in franchise history, leads all NHL players during the past three seasons with 156 goals and 283 points, and at age 22 he's only getting started. He's one of the elite goal-scorers in the NHL and figures to stay that way for years to come.
Honorable mention: Roman Hamrlik (1992), Chris Gratton (1993), Daymond Langkow (1995), Vincent Lecavalier (1998)
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Brad Richards (1998) -- The Lightning chose Richards two rounds after taking Lecavalier, his teammate with Rimouski of the QMJHL. Richards, who was dealt to Dallas in 2008, had eight 20-goal seasons and topped 70 points in six of eight seasons before signing with the New York Rangers last summer. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy after scoring 26 points in 23 games during Tampa Bay's run to the 2004 Stanley Cup. This spring, Richards helped the Rangers to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in 15 years.
Honorable mention: Aaron Gavey (1992), Shane Willis (1995)
Best later-round pick: Pavel Kubina (1996) -- Tampa Bay took Kubina, a defenseman from the Czech Republic, in the seventh round, and by 1999 had a top-four defenseman with size and a big shot. He has hit double-figures in goals five times, including 17 in Tampa Bay's Cup season of 2003-04. Kubina signed with Toronto as a free agent in 2006, was dealt to Atlanta for 2009-10, but returned to the Lightning in 2010-11 before being dealt to Philadelphia in February 2012.
Honorable mention: Bryce Salvador (1994), Nick Tarnasky (2003)
Biggest disappointment: Alexander Svitov (2001) -- Talk about a swing and a miss. The Lightning took Svitov with the No. 3 pick 11 years ago, left him at home in Russia for a couple of years, then brought him to North America in 2002 -- only to deal him to Columbus the following season. Svitov fared no better with Columbus, splitting time between the Blue Jackets and their AHL team in Syracuse before returning to Russia in 2007.
Honorable mention: Mario Larocque (1996), Nikita Alexeev (2000)
Best first-round pick: Alex Ovechkin (2004) -- As good as the Caps thought Ovechkin might be when they picked him with the first choice of the 2004 draft, he's been better. Ovechkin became the most feared gunner in the NHL, topping 50 goals in four of his first six NHL seasons; his 32-goal season in 2010-11 was the poorest of his career, and his 65 points in 2011-12 were a career low, although he scored 38 times. Ovi has become a physical force who's more than willing to run over an opponent and he brings a joy to the game that few players ever have matched. At 26 (he'll turn 27 in September), he's already surpassed the 300-goal mark and has become one of the faces of the NHL.
Honorable mention: Mike Gartner (1979), Scott Stevens (1982), Olaf Kolzig (1989), Mike Green (2004), Nicklas Backstrom (2006)
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Michal Pivonka (1984) -- The Caps selected Pivonka with a third-round choice, but had to wait three years for the Czech center to make it to North America. Pivonka never became the star some thought he'd be, but he was a solid player for a decade in Washington, putting up four 20-goal seasons, four 50-assist seasons and five seasons in which he had 60 or more points. After scoring 81 points in 1995-96, injuries over the next three seasons cut short his career.
Honorable mention: Steve Konowalchuk (1991), Jason Woolley (1989)
Best later-round pick: Peter Bondra (1990) -- The collapse of the Iron Curtain opened a new pool of hockey talent to NHL teams. The Capitals found one of the gems when they used an eighth-round pick to nab Bondra, a Ukraine-born Slovak who had starred in the Czech League. After scoring 12 goals as a rookie, Bondra began a streak of 14 seasons with at least 20 goals, highlighted by 52-goal performances in 1995-96 and 1997-98, when he helped lead Washington to the Stanley Cup Final. He finished his NHL career with 503 goals, 472 as a Capital.
Honorable mention: Andrew Brunette (1993), Richard Zednik (1994), Johnny Oduya (2001)
Biggest disappointment: Alexander Volchkov (1996) -- The Russian-born center was picked No. 4 after a 37-goal season with Barrie of the OHL. He had 29 goals and 82 points for the Colts in 1996-97, then turned pro -- and saw his scoring touch completely disappear. Volchkov never scored more than 11 goals in the minors and wound up playing only three games with the Capitals. He returned to Russia in 2000 and was out of hockey a year later.
Honorable mention: Nolan Baumgartner (1994), Brad Church (1995)
Author: John Kreiser | NHL.com Columnist